Colombian Medellin-Based Drug Cartel Member Arrested For Kidnapping ICE Agent

A Colombian Medellin-based drug cartel member - Byron A. Jimenez Castaneda, age 44 – has been arrested on kidnapping and narcotics charges. Jimenez Castaneda is a citizen of Colombia, but was arrested in Orlando, Florida late last month. In the 15-count indictment, he is charged with conspiracy to possess, distribute and import narcotics into the United States, and is alleged to have coordinated the kidnapping of an undercover Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in Medellin, Colombia, on December 13, 2005. According to the indictment, Jimenez Castaneda acted as “judge” in a “narco trial” to determine the undercover ICE agent’s responsibility for the cartel’s loss of cocaine and currency to law enforcement. The indictment also alleges that a ransom of $2,000,000 was requested for the release of the undercover ICE agent. The arrest of Jimenez Castaneda comes following a two-year ICE investigation that has resulted in the arrest of 23 cartel associates and the seizure of more than 1,900 kilograms of cocaine, numerous foreign and domestic bank accounts, more than 3 million dollars in U.S. currency, and six vessels.

“This case demonstrates how ruthless this Medellin-based cartel is,” said Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers. “Arresting Jimenez Castaneda on kidnapping and drug charges brings us one step closer to justice and strikes a severe blow to their criminal organization.”

In October 2006, as part of ICE’s “Operation Watusi,” a case under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, U.S. and foreign law enforcement officers conducted simultaneous arrests in several countries that resulted in the total arrest of 22 of the 30 individuals indicted on drug and money laundering charges.

The defendants, and their co-conspirators, coordinated the transportation of multi-million dollar shipments of cocaine from South America to Puerto Rico via motor vessels and laundered the narcotics proceeds through various financial transactions. The currency is alleged to have been laundered through a complex money laundering scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange.

During the investigation, federal agents were able to infiltrate the money laundering and drug trafficking organizations, identifying the source of the supply of the drugs, the foreign and domestic drug transporters, a distributor, and money launderers. As a result of these simultaneous arrests in the U.S. and in several foreign countries, federal agents dismantled several drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

The narcotics offenses charged in the indictments involve a sentence of a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of not more than $4 million. The penalties for the hostage-taking offense involve a maximum sentence of life of imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000.

Hey TERM told you, we do more than just immigration.